GM Interview: Ana Cláudia
Interview #7 features Ana from Brazil who is new to GMing and likes to terrorize her boyfriend.
Ana, in your next campaign you should run identical triplet NPCs. One is evil, one is neutral and one is good. It’s up to your boyfriend’s character to first learn there are identical NPCs running around wreaking havoc. Then he has to figure out which is evil and which is good. Finally, because this is a cliché plot hook, you can surprise him with the third NPC, because in almost all such stories the NPCs are twins, not triplets. I think this would be a fun story for you to run based on your answers. J
Section One: Opportunities
What is your biggest GMing stumbling block right now? What could you do to fix that?
Since I GM everyday, my biggest problem is that I always need to think about new plots, quests, bad guys and interesting NPCs. If a PC dies, the player can think of another character, then a whole new adventure has to be created. It´s also frustrating when I think of an adventure believing it´s going to be great and the thing just doesn´t work in-game.
Describe your perfect gaming session with you as GM
Interested players, chips and good humor. Also, no interruptions.
Section Two: Your GMing Stat Block
Ana Cláudia, a 27 y.o. Brazilian GM.
How long have you been a GM?
Almost two years now.
Game(s) you have run in the past two years:
D&D 3.5 only.
How did you first get into GMing?
Blame my boyfriend; he created a monster. He kept telling me for years how D&D was a great game. One day, he told me about Faluzure and it just hit me. I needed to give it a try. I started as a player. Then, I got addicted to it. When I felt comfortable with the system I started GMing, without planning anything.
How has GMing affected your life over the years?
In a good way: I wasn´t an imaginative person before it, and as a GM I´m kinda forced to be. And I have Bipolar Disorder. I´ve tried to kill myself many times. Creating things keeps my mind away from suicidal thoughts. I´d dare to say, it saved my life. I study Pedagogy in college, and I plan to write my paper about RPG and education.
In a bad way: In Brazil there was a crime years ago. A girl was killed, and searching the student´s house she lived in, police found RPGs books (I think it was Call of Cthullu). The owner of the books wasn´t the assassin. But every newspaper would tell people that RPGs are evil and players are all devil worshippers, with ceremonies guided by a GM. RPG players and GMs became a little like outcasts. There´s still a lot of prejudice.
What is your gaming schedule, on average?
Everyday. It used to be on weekends and few weeknights because of college and work, but I´m not working/studying now because of an eye surgery. So, lots of fun! It starts at 4:00 p.m., and ends at 10:30 p.m. Sometimes I don´t feel like GMing, so my boyfriend GMs.
Where do you play?
We play on a plaza downtown. We used to play in my place all night long, but not anymore.
Do you use published worlds or create your own?
We (me and my boyfriend) have a world of our own. We created everything, from NPCs to geography, from magic items to history. We´re very proud of it, and we´re always creating new things. I don´t believe it´s a good thing to always follow what books say, because there are a lot things that could be improved and created. It´s a game of imagination, more than anything else.
Do you use published campaigns or create your own?
Again, my own. Same reason above.
What non-digital GM aides do you use, other than books?
Some drawings, and foreign languages dictionaries to name places and NPCs. It´s a good idea to visit a museum. Pictures I took when I lived in Norway and pictures from my family´s farm for terrain ideas. And medieval movies. There´s always something new to learn about how medieval people behave.
What electronic GM aides do you use?
I use Dundjinni to build temples, dungeons and taverns, but the maps are only for myself so I can have a picture of what I´ll describe as a GM.
What player handouts do you offer?
When was the last time you were a player? What insight about GMing did you pick up?
Yesterday, actually. I play a level 18 (levelled up yesterday – yay!) wizard gnome. I always pay attention on how the GM makes the battles run smooth. But, the most important thing I learned was how to make a player mad. It´s called “Mordenkainen´s Disjunction.”
Section Three: GMing Style
Describe in a few words each of your players and their playing style.
A: Right now it´s me GMing and my boyfriend playing. And I like it. Until last week we had another player, but his character died.
- Victor: He´s smart on combat and good on his roleplaying. He plays a level 8 fighter/ranger human. He´s not afraid to try new tatics or ask NPCs questions (which can cause him trouble sometimes). But if his character makes a mistake, he will pay. He doesn´t take any advantages for being my boyfriend. Funny fact: When he´s to roll a die and only has one chance to succeed a test, he says, “C´mon Gygax, a little help here.”
Describe in a few words your group’s playing style.
There´s a never-ending will to save villages and unprotected people, and sometimes, teach a craft to local children. I do allow characters to take time to do that. Sometimes Victor just can´t get the evil plans of the enemy, so he´s always in some kind of trouble. And he roleplays very good. If he´s playing a fighter, a talking animal will just scare the hell out of him. If he fails on a Spot check, he will roleplay how surprised his character is with what will happen next.
Describe in a few words your GMing style.
I love the roleplaying of NPCs. I just love to give each one of them a personality, to the point it´s sad when one of them gets killed. Also, I´m an evil GM when it comes to plots. While Victor asks for Gygax´s help, I always ask for Monte Cook´s blessing (yeah, I know the guy is alive) when I´m rolling dice for evil NPCs. He´s the guy of The Book Of Vile Darkness, so he is supposed to help, right? Right?
What is your best GMing skill or ability? What advice would you give to a GM wanting to improve in that area?
Psychological horror (bwahahahaha). No, just kidding. It´s the roleplaying of NPCs. Being good on that keeps the players interested, and makes their characters willing to die to save villages, cities or even the world. And that´s when things start to happen. My advice is read, read and read. I love Tolkien, but I do read a lot about psychology, and even psychiatry, so I can come up with more realistic NPCs, and think exactly how they would think, if they were real.
What is your typical session planning process?
I read the books to find monsters that´ll match the adventure I´m planning, or I just create a monster myself. I develop the villains and adventures in advance, so I always have a quest and at least two side quests ready to go.
What are your favourite GMing reference books, other than the rules?
Tolkien books. When I first put a dragon on an adventure, I read The Hobbit again, especially when it comes to Smaug, so I could have an idea on how a dragon would act. I also like the Atlas of World History.
What are your favourite online resources for GMing?
- Roleplaying Tips;
- Slack n Hash (http://slacknhash.net/);
- Strolen´s Citadel (http://strolen.com/);
- Vorpal (http://vorpal.com.br) – a Brazilian website with a lot of good articles and reviews. They´ll also publish their own game system, called the Old Dragon, which I´m planning to try (http://olddragon.com.br)
What tools or aides (digital and non-digital) do you wish would be created or invented to help you GM easier?
Software to store important events of the game world, to build a timeline.
After working through these question and getting a 10,000 foot view of your GMing, what is the number #1 thing you’d like to learn about and work on next to become a better GM?
A way to always keep the story interesting, and a way to make all battles unforgettable. I always have a terrible time when there´s a battle against an important NPC, because I always feel the need to impress and wow the player.